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Art Watch 2/25-3/4 

Nestled in the Blue Lakes wilderness near Sisters is an isolated oasis where small groups of artists are invited each year to spend a month-long residency creating and collaborating at the expansive Caldera Arts Center. What does a month spent in the Cascade foothills without cell phone service in the dead of winter inspire?

Well, Caldera will showcase the work of the seven artists who, for the last four weeks, called the Arts Center 16 miles west of Sisters their home. On Saturday, Feb. 28 from 1 to 3 pm, visitors can explore the creative work generated by the group and learn more about the residency experience and accommodations (applications for 2016 will close June 15).

Interest in the program grew significantly in the past year with a 60 percent increase in applications for 2015 residency positions, according to Artist in Residence director Elizabeth Quinn.

"The residents chosen represent a highly competitive, professional field of artists this year," said Quinn.

Among those selected for the residency program is sculptor Alison K Walsh from New Haven, Connecticut. Walsh, a biologist and former zookeeper, works at the intersection of art and science and finds inspiration in genetics, the environment, and the animal world. "As an adopted child," explained Walsh, "I am drawn to discovering the parts of the whole which are a product of environmental forces, and what characters can be manipulated and changed via external pressures."

Her Caldera-inspired work features samples of Purple Heart wood she found in a Bend lumber yard, along with printings made with iodine and bandages, tools she became acquainted with after cutting herself carving during her first week here. She calls the printings "a new and healing product of Caldera."

The low relief sculptures and printings that Walsh will show February 28 are the product of her engagement in a naturally breathtaking environment with 24-hour access to well-equipped studios and the collective genius of a group of other creative thinkers.

"Being here is like nothing I have ever experienced," said Walsh. "It is peaceful, I am outdoors each day and the world seems much larger here."

Though their stay in Central Oregon is brief, Caldera's resident artists impact the community year-round by their contributions to mentorship programs aiding underserved youth in Warm Springs, Madras, Redmond, and Bend.

"They contribute to our week-long in-school residencies at our partner middle schools, teach Saturday and after school high school workshops, present to our middle school classes and contribute curriculum for our mentor staff to use," said Quinn. Caldera's mission, to support children with limited opportunities through arts education, serves young minds that may fill the rosters of artist residency programs in years to come.

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